London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Two Shiite leaders dropped a political bomb yesterday by endorsing a plan to establish a Shiite federal state consisting of the nine Shiite governorates in central and southern Iraq. This plan is not only opposed by the Sunni Arabs, but also by the Shiites themselves. While Ammar al-Hakim, son of the leader of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Abdulaziz al-Hakim declared his support for such federal state, Iraqi Political Activist and Researcher Iyad Jamal al-Din opposed this idea. Muntasir al-Imarah, member of the Shiite Coalition bloc in the National Assembly, called for the establishment of a federal state consisting of three governorates.
In a telephone interview with Asharq al-Awsat from his office from Baghdad, Ammar al-Hakim said, "My father has proposed to include nine governorates in central and southern Iraq in a single federal state because the people in these governorates are similar in their affiliations and the oppression they”ve suffered. This plan will create a political balance between the south and the center, on the one hand, and the Kurdistan federal state, on the other."
Al-Hakim added, "Since the system of government in Iraq will be federal, why should there not be other federal states to maintain the unity of Iraq and its political balance? There will be a Kurdish federal state in the north and another in central and southern Iraq."
Al-Hakim denied that this federal state would be Shiite in nature, although it will include all the Shiite governorates. He said, "Some Sunni brothers live in these governorates, and I am against these sectarian names. We are only interested in the welfare of Iraq and the Iraqis."
Regarding his suggestion to name the country "the Islamic Federal Republic of Iraq," Al-Hakim said, "We thought of adding "Islamic" to the name of the Iraqi state to give Iraq a distinctive name. The name "Federal" was suggested, and we proposed that Iraq should have a distinctive name, and there is no better distinction than Islam. However, we did not insist on this name, and finally it was decided to call it the Iraqi Republic or the Republic of Iraq."
Regarding the increasing Iranian influence in southern Iraq, particularly in the Basra Governorate, Al-Hakim said, "The media have exaggerated the issue of the Iranian influence in the south, and this is doing a disservice to the people in these governorates. We support good neighborly relations. Regional interventions are taking place from all sides in Iraq. Why are they not talking about it?" He said, "We are not defending Iran. We want to maintain good neighborly relations, and we have already explained this in our relations with Kuwait and others."
The son of the SCIRI leader explained, "The Badr Organization is independent from the SCIRI. The organization possesses licensed light weapons to defend its offices. If there is talk about merging the militias in the armed forces or banning them, this should apply to all the armed party militias and not only the Badr Organization."
Iyad Jamal al-Din said that this is not the right time to raise the issue of a federal state in central and southern Iraq, because the priorities in Iraq today are security, services, and building the state institutions. He said he is not talking about the Kurdish federal state because "the establishment of a federal state in the Kurdistan region is another different issue, and almost all Iraqis agree on it."
In a telephone interview with Asharq al-Awsat from his office in Baghdad yesterday, Jamal-al-Din said, "We need to build the state institutions now. I think it is appropriate to talk, if necessary, about a decentralized system for the administration of the governorates to help the government." He added, "The first task is to build the state institutions and provide services to the people, who are not asking for or demanding a federal system; they are demanding services, such as electricity, water, and security."
Jamal al-Din affirmed, "The establishment of a Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish federal states means advocating the disintegration of the country and exposing national unity to the danger of partition." He said that the State Administration Law talked about uniting three governorates to form a region and called for a federal system. It did not talk about forming a Shiite federal state in nine governorates. We do not need this now. We can consider that in the future when stability is achieved and the Iraqi people”s needs of services and security are fulfilled."
Jamal al-Din concluded, "If it is necessary to establish a federal state in southern Iraq, based on the demands of the people there to improve their living conditions, it should be an administrative federal state."
Muntasir al-Imarah, member of the Shiite Coalition bloc in the National Assembly, explained, "All I am interested in is for all members of the Iraqi people to live in prosperity and dignity and to have equality and justice." He told Asharq al-Awsat yesterday, "I do not support a federal state of nine governorates; I support a federal state of three governorates to achieve political balance and provide opportunities to the people of these governorates. The cabinet has no ministers from Al-Samawah or Al-Diwaniyah. However, there are nine Kurdish ministers from three federal governorates. If Basra, Al-Amarah, and Al-Nasiriyah, for example, formed a federal state in southern Iraq, they would constitute a significant political power and would dictate the nomination of a large number of ministers in the Iraqi Government. I am against national or sectarian divisions. We should not call the southern federal state Shiite or the northern federal state Kurdish. This would mean the beginning of the partition of Iraq, and I am against any plan that divides or dismembers Iraq."
He said, "We want federal states for all Iraq and Iraqis, whether in the north, center, or south. We want federal states to decentralize the government, because we suffered a great deal from totalitarian and central government."